There's a place on the internet where rabid NBA fans go to find deeper meaning in the sport they love. That place is Free Darko, and it's one of the smartest hoop sites around. Their Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac is one of the most original, well-illustrated basketball books in existence, and one of its authors, Brown Recluse, Esq., took some time to share his extended thoughts on Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
Q: In the book, you list eight things about Kobe Bryant that can be spun positively or negatively, depending on the fan's (or anti-fan's) perspective. What is it about Kobe that makes him the game's most polarizing superstar?
A: For literally his entire career, Kobe has been pissing people off by choosing his own path. Coming out of high school, he was supposed to be a Grant Hill type, from the good grades and suburban upbringing to the professional athlete father. But, rather than playing four years at somewhere like Duke, he chose to be the first non-hardship player to jump directly from high school to the NBA, which, we forget, was an incredibly brash thing to do at the time. Ever since, his arrogance has just rubbed people the wrong way, so they like to see him fail. He's also always been something of an outsider, and his attempts to come across as more likable have just come off fake. When the Colorado incident happened, it seemed to confirm for some their suspicions that he must be hiding something and that he's probably a sociopath.
Q: Kobe has his MVP trophy, has his Olympic Gold Medal, and has three championships. But being in search of that perfect career, do you think he'll be satisfied unless he can win at least one more title without Shaq by his side?
A: In no way will Kobe be satisfied finishing his career without a fourth ring. He has wanted to be the unquestioned leader of a championship team as long as he's been in the League, and that wasn't possible playing on a team with Shaq. The Heat's title and Shaq's subsequent entreaty to sample his rectum probably only added to Kobe's desire to win a ring on his own terms. The Lakers have somewhat surprisingly been able to build a team on which Kobe can feel comfortable and be that leader, and the Lakers are looking like the favorites right now.
Q: Which Laker player can best be defined as being Free Darko, and why?
A: In the book's manifesto, we talk about appreciating the individual player over the team, but there are those rare teams where the sum is more FreeDarko than the parts, and I think this version of the Lakers might be one of those teams. At their best, they play a smart, uptempo brand of basketball that embodies the phrase "competitive style." But, if pressed, I would have to say that despite the book having chapters on Kobe and Lamar Odom, the most FreeDarko Laker is probably Trevor Ariza.
The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac is available everywhere.